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Brussels, 7 June 2007

Roaming : Commission welcomes political agreement in today's EU Telecom Council

Today, the Council has adopted politically the European Commission's proposal for an EU Roaming Regulation to bring down mobile roaming charges by up to 70%. "This decision paves the ways for cheaper roaming rates throughout the EU, a landmark for Europe as it clearly responds to the wishes of consumers," commented EU Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I call on the Council now to publish the EU Regulation in the days to come. Millions of EU citizens and business travellers are waiting for lower roaming charges."

What is roaming?
Whenever you make or receive a mobile phone call when abroad, on holiday or on business, you are roaming. You are roaming on a mobile network of a foreign network operator because your home provider normally does not provide a service in the country in which you are travelling. For providing this service, the foreign network operator will charge your home operator. This charge is passed on to you at a different rate.

How high are prices?

Still far too high, in the European Commission's view. Using your mobile phone abroad is on average four times higher than national mobile calls, differences that cannot be explained by the costs for operators. For example, an Austrian in Malta could pay €10.00 to call home for four minutes. A Spanish customer roaming in Latvia can pay up to €6.31 and a Cypriot roaming in Belgium can pay €12.00 for the same call home. An Irish customer roaming in Malta could pay as much as €11.96 for a four-minute call home.

An updated overview of international mobile roaming charges in Europe (as of March 2007), with tariffs per country, can be found at the Commission's roaming website:

Why did the EU intervene?

"For too long consumer complaints that roaming charges were punishing those who cross a border went unanswered," says EU Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding. "National regulators felt powerless as roaming, because of its cross-border nature, went beyond their jurisdiction. My repeated call to operators to lower roaming charges voluntarily was not taken seriously. EU leaders at their Brussels summit in March 2006, with the strong support of the European Parliament, had underlined the importance of lowering roaming charges for Europe's competitiveness. That's why we listened and acted."

Why have operators not brought prices down voluntarily?

Although a few market players have begun to reduce prices this has only been under the threat of regulation from Commissioner Reding (announced, in most concrete terms, in her SPEECH/06/69). There is no guarantee that without this threat, prices would have fallen. In addition, not all consumers stand to gain by existing offers. Many current schemes require users to actively subscribe to them and on top of this they have to pay for the privilege. Such packages also tend to target certain groups only while general consumers remain unaware. That is why the EU Regulation will be fairer for all, and in particular also allow smaller operators to compete.

What do EU citizens think?

In September 2006 a Eurobarometer survey canvassed 24,565 citizens from all across the EU after their summer holidays on how they felt about roaming. The main findings, representative of the EU population as a whole, include:

• 79% of EU citizens surveyed have a mobile phone.

• 44% of mobile phone owners travelled to another EU country in the past year.

• 70% support EU action to lower charges.

• Many mobile phone users use their phones less when abroad as compared to when at home - for 81% this is because of the higher roaming charges.

• 15% switch off their mobile when abroad or simply do not take it with them.

• 59% would use their mobile phone more when abroad, if prices were lower.

• 43% are still confused about the prices for calls whilst abroad.

For the full report see:

How does the new EU Roaming Regulation reduce roaming prices?

The EU Regulation will, as from this summer, enable consumers to benefit from a ‘Eurotariff’ which sets a maximum limit for calls made and received. These price caps will be further reduced in 2008 and 2009.

Maximum limit for the Eurotariff
for calls
made abroad

49 cent

46 cent

43 cent
Maximum limit for the Eurotariff
for calls
received abroad

24 cent

22 cent

19 cent

All tariffs per minute and without VAT

The roaming regulation will also ensure that information about pricing is clearer for consumers. It forces mobile service providers to give free personalised information on retail roaming charges to their customers. Also operators will have to regularly tell their users about the latest roaming charges so they all remain informed.

Although the regulation proposes capping roaming prices for voice services only, it at the same time requires national regulators to monitor closely price developments for roamed short message services (SMS) and data services. The Commission calls on mobile operators to demonstrate very clearly their willingness to voluntarily reduce the very high roaming charges for SMS and data roaming to avoid them also having to be regulated.

Why does the EU Roaming Regulation intervene at the wholesale and retail level?
In mobile roaming markets, due to their complex and non-transparent nature, a reduction of wholesale prices does not mean consumers will benefit from lower retail prices. Previous experience with roaming markets show that wholesale savings of roaming costs made by operators have, in general, not been passed on to consumers - a phenomenon noted in particular by the EU's national telecom regulators:

is why the Commission felt a need to intervene exceptionally also at the retail level.

Politically what led to this roaming regulation?

From the very beginning, the idea of creating a European Regulation on roaming enjoyed strong political support in the European Parliament and in the European Council.

On 12 July 2006 the Commission proposed an EU Regulation on roaming (see IP/06/978). Following political agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the EU Roaming Regulation was approved by the European Parliament by an overwhelming majority in a plenary vote on 23 May 2007 (see IP/07/696 and MEMO/07/158). Today the EU Telecom Ministers politically adopted the EU Roaming Regulation. This is the last step before it can be published in the Official Journal, making it a directly applicable law in all 27 Member States. The exact timing of publication is in the hands of the Council, which so far has indicated its willingness to publish the regulation before the end of June. Commissioner Reding has asked the Council to speed up publication, which is already available in all EU languages since 23 May 2006.

In the end, the EU Roaming Regulation will have been carried forward from an initial Commission proposal to applicable law in all 27 Member States in just 11 months. This is one of the fastest ever EU Regulations that has passed through the co-decision procedures of the European Institutions.

How much cheaper could using your mobile phone abroad could become?

For calling home from abroad, consumers will save the most in countries where operators impose very high charges. We expect these savings to be of up to 70% for making calls. For example, an Irish customer making a four-minute call home from Malta would pay not €11.96 as before but a maximum of €1.96+VAT according to the regulation, while for a Cypriot in Belgium it would drop from €12.00 to €1.96+VAT.

Will the EU Roaming Regulation apply only within the 27 EU Member States, or also elsewhere?

Neighbouring countries that are part of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) will also benefit from the EU Roaming Regulation when this is adopted by the EEA Joint Committee. At a meeting of EU Regulators in Oslo on 1 June in which these neighbouring countries participated, they explored a common approach to implementing the regulation.

Other regions and countries around the world, including North Africa, India and the Arab states have also expressed an interest in using the EU roaming model as best practice for lowering roaming costs for their own citizens.

When will consumers actually see lower roaming tariffs on their phone bills?

The EU Roaming Regulation is expected to enter into force in June 2007. This means that in the course of July, the ‘Eurotariff’ will have to be offered to consumers in the EU. One month maximum after the Eurotariff has been accepted by a consumer, it will have to be activated by mobile operators – this means during August at the latest. If consumers without a pre-existing roaming package do not react to the offered Eurotariff, they will be switched automatically onto the Eurotariff two months after the offer.

"I am pleased that as from this summer, all citizens of Europe will be able to benefit from the new EU roaming Regulation," says EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding "I call on all mobile operators to now start a race for the most attractive roaming package and even to improve the ‘Eurotariff’. This would be a clear sign that following this regulatory intervention, Europe's mobile roaming markets are finally moving towards competition."

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